It’s not hard to recognize sales trainers who excel at their profession. They are passionate, and it shows. They relate easily to their audiences and create safe environments for learning. They understand the challenges facing field salespeople, because they have walked in their shoes. They model the skills they teach and share best practices. Most importantly, they tailor the classroom experience to meet learners where they are.
Great sales trainers equip and inspire sales professionals to engage in authentic, customer-focused conversations that result in high-value, needs-based solutions. The question is: Are you a great sales trainer?
Here are five table stakes—foundational skills and traits—for great sales trainers.
- They are passionate about supporting the success of sales professionals. They are truly customer-focused, and the learners are their customers.
- They are relatable. They have an innate ability to connect with and relate to sales professionals quickly and authentically. They foster trust and build safe environments for learners to stretch, allowing them to be vulnerable when learning.
- They are credible. Their expertise is rooted in both successful sales experience and training. Trainers with selling experience anchor the learning in reality. When they also use sound sales training methodology and strong facilitation skills, great sales trainers create deep, rich and relevant experiences.
- They draw out best practices. They know how to transfer knowledge and create environments where individuals learn from one another by sharing best practices.
- They are learner-focused. They display an understanding of their learners’ unique selling situations and adjust the learning experience appropriately to meet the audience where they are. They know when to slow down or go deeper, and they know when to push harder to help all learners achieve at a higher level, stretching them in a safe way.
Great sales trainers master all these skills. But being truly exceptional requires the ability to up their games, going above and beyond the basic requirements.
- Selling trends: Exceptional sales trainers understand the changing trends within the selling space, whether it’s business-to-business or business-to-consumer sales. They talk to sales professionals both inside and outside the company, read the experts in the field, and search for the latest reports and studies by industry consultants.
- Training trends: They stay connected to what’s happening in the field of training. They not only network with industry colleagues, but they also follow the social media feeds of thought leaders and subscribe to their blogs. They go to conferences and make personal connections.
- Field experience: They look for opportunities to accompany sales professionals in the field to see firsthand the challenges they face. Real, in-the-trenches field experience raises credibility in the classroom and builds the facilitator’s confidence.
- Next-level success: They define their next-level goals as trainers, visualizing success and then working to make it happen. Professional development is personal. It could be about fine-tuning their crafts and honing skills to become more accomplished. It could be about broadening their areas of expertise. With a specific target in mind, they look for resources to support them, including coursework, new certifications or speaking engagements at industry conferences.
- Lightbulb moments: They hone their questioning and listening skills to focus on recognizing, creating and maximizing “aha” moments for learners. They look for opportunities to make connections and links to learning modules. Instead of giving answers to training participants, they ask more than tell, often answering a question with a question to encourage greater investigation of the content.
- Model essential skills: They incorporate essential questioning, listening and other critical skills into their behavior in the classroom. By modeling these skills, they demonstrate how having a higher level of skills can help sales professionals differentiate themselves and provide greater value to their customers.
- Coaching skills: They hone their ability to observe training participants practicing a skill, and then stop and redirect to make course corrections. This kind of coaching helps participants achieve a kind of “muscle memory.” Exceptional trainers also coach with specific, accurate feedback that helps learners improve their ability to apply what they learned. The real-world application of improved selling skills can lead learners to measurable growth in business outcomes.
For sales trainers to become great ones—and then to up their game—takes a desire for continual improvement and a commitment to lifelong learning. The outcome is a powerful one: a highly skilled facilitator who is learner-focused and delivers tailored, challenging and inspiring learning experiences that result in improved performance and results.